This morning I was privileged to be the speaker at the Butler chapter of Christian Business Partners. The talk I gave presented the Easter story as a dramatized eyewitness account of the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Originally this was only intended to be a spoken presentation, but due to several requests to share it online, I decided to go ahead and post it here.
This wasn’t written for grammatical style, and I admit I took a few ‘artistic liberties’ but I hope that you can find some value in this story…
Imagine, if you will, that you have the rare opportunity to hear from an eyewitness to the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
Saul the Carpet Maker joins us today to share what he saw and observed from his place of business, located near the western slope of what has come to be known as the Via Dolorosa.
Let’s listen in as Saul shares his recollections with us….
What A Week
Oy vey! What a week that was! The city was even more crowded than usual for Passover week! Usually, Jerusalem would have 300,000 people crowded into during the Passover festivities, but this year some were saying there may have been closer to one million people!
It was great for business, all of these Jews coming here for the holy day. Many wanted to return to their home with some sort of remembrance of their visit, and this year the demand for my fine carpets was higher than it had ever been. My sons Levi and Yoses were hard at work weaving the mats as fast as they could, and still, we couldn’t seem to keep up. Even my wife Berenice was helping behind the scenes.
Fortunately, our good friend Simon from Cyrene was in for Passover this year, and he brought his sons Rufus and Alexander with him. Even though they were camping out in the countryside, his boys agreed to help out and work overnight with my boys, trying to get ahead of the demand.
There were other commotions going on this week as well. Our big feasts and celebrations always attracted mishegas, but this year there seemed to be a meshuggener on every corner! And of course, this year we had that Jesus of Nazareth fella causing all kinds of ruckus. First, he came riding into town on a donkey! If he had stuck a feather in his hat he could have called it Gornisht.
Then the next day Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”
Such chutzpah! But maybe that is what we need. The priests and those Pharisees are getting a bit ridiculous with all the rules and regulations!
So ok, onto the part of the story I know you want to hear. It was very early on Friday morning. The boys and I had already been working hard at out stall, selling as fast as we could lay out the carpets and mats.
Suddenly we hear a loud commotion out in the street. I mean this was mishegas loud! People screaming something about “Crucify him! Crucify him!” This was unheard of for our people. Crucifixion was the manner of execution that our oppressors, the goyim Roman swine, used to kill Jews and their own criminals. It was barbaric and no self-respecting Jew would ever encourage such a thing. But here was this crowd, seemingly bloodthirsty and screaming for some poor soul to be crucified.
Right away the boys wanted to go see what was going on but I would have no part of it. There was too much work to do and I had to stay focused. I didn’t care if it was the Messiah Himself out there, there was too much work to be done.
Suddenly I heard Simon’s boy Alexander scream out in horror, “Papa!”
Levi came running back into the stall. “Papa, come quickly! The Romans have grabbed Simon and are making him carry the cross! And their so-called criminal is Jesus of Nazareth! Papa, you know he is no criminal! Many say he is truly the Son of God and they are dragging him away. Papa, come do something!”
Looking back now, maybe I should have done something. But all I knew was that it was the final day to sell our carpets. At 6 this evening all selling would end as the Sabbath arrived. And after that, all the visitors would be gone. I was a business man, I had to concentrate on business and not get sidetracked by the drama of this Jesus fellow.
Yes, I was shocked that Simon had been grabbed. He was just coming to my stall to check on his boys. And sure I felt like a shmendrik for not doing something, but those carpets weren’t going to sell themselves. You folks are business people, eh? You know how it; keep our priorities in line, business first, and all that… yada, yada, yada…
Eventually, the riot and parade moved outside the city to that ugly hill called The Skull. What a horrible place that was. It was the Romans favorite local crucifixion spot and the screams and wails that came from there were nerve-wracking, no matter how many times you heard them. I knew it was going to be another long day, as those goyim took pleasure in their executions, making them last all day as they tortured and mocked the poor souls that they killed there.
But then, the strangest thing happened. I had never seen anything like it before, and neither had anyone else. By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. It was darker than the darkest moonless night. It was positively supernatural. Right about 3 o’clock I heard the most awful and anguished cry I have ever heard in my life. I hope to never hear anything like it again, I’ll tell you that for sure!
My boys had gone ahead to the Skull, they wanted to see this man Jesus. They had become enthralled with his teachings, and they were even convinced that he was our long promised Messiah. But here he was, being executed as a criminal. And afterward, the boys told me that the horrible cry I had heard was Jesus, crying out, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” And then he was gone…
And suddenly, at the very same time, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. I heard about this later, but putting it together now, I am sure that all of this was connected. Something very not of this world happened at that moment.
That day and the following day were just surreal in Jerusalem. The priests were positively giddy, a strange reaction indeed to the execution of what seemed to be a good rabbi. But he had challenged their hold on all of us and they didn’t like that at all. So they were happy, but the rest of the city seemed to be in a daze. No one seemed to be able to figure out exactly what had happened, but we all knew that SOMETHING very different had happened.
My boys and Simon’s boys were inconsolable. Apparently, this Jesus was more than a rabbi to them. They were heartbroken as if they had lost their best friend. I had not realized just how serious they become about following this Jesus. I had been so busy with my business that I had not noticed what had happened in my own family. Even Berenice had become a follower of Jesus. She had become very close with some other women who had followed Jesus, and they were all going to the grave tomorrow after the Sabbath to place the spices that our customs dictated. All of this had happened and I had no idea. My focus had been on my work, not on these outside happenings. Even though these happening had deeply affected my family, I was oblivious. What a klutz I was!
That third day! Now that day changed EVERYTHING! Berenice went with her friends very early in the morning to the grave. But to my surprise, she came running home just minutes later, screaming hysterically that “He’s gone! He is not there! An angel told us he has risen from the grave!”
How can this be? People don’t just rise up from the grave! But later, a couple of the main leaders of Jesus’ following also went to the grave.
Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.
I didn’t understand any of this, but I knew it was about time that I started paying attention to what was happening around me. I turned to the Holy Scriptures, even though the priests didn’t like for us to read for ourselves and I saw these words:
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Surely this was talking about Jesus! And as I read more I came across this that King David had written:
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
But for me, the clincher was what happened that Sunday night. My boys had run an errand for me to the town of Emmaus and on their way they had struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler. They talked about all of the things that had happened over the last couple of days and then as they were ready to each go their own way; my boys invited this stranger to have dinner with us. So he came home with them. As we sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to us. Suddenly, our eyes were opened, and we recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
It was Jesus! He was alive! We had seen him! It was all true! He died for our sins. He was punished for me! And he beat death! He fought the law, and Jesus won!
I still have my business. And I still manage it quite well. But I am also aware now that God is at work all around. No more am I going to be so focused on the ordinary that I miss the extra-ordinary that is happening right in front of me!
And if you ever happen to stroll down Via Dolorosa, stop and remember what happened there…
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.